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Tree Physiol. 2006 Dec;26(12):1505-16.

Irradiance-induced plasticity in the hydraulic properties of saplings of different temperate broad-leaved forest tree species.

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UMR INRA-UHP, Ecologie et Ecophysiologie Forestières, IFR 110 Génomique, Ecophysiologie et Ecologie Fonctionnelle, F 54280 Champenoux, France.


We assessed the irradiance-related plasticity of hydraulic architecture in saplings of Betula pendula Roth., a pioneer species; Acer pseudoplatanus L., Fraxinus excelsior L. and Quercus robur L., which are post-pioneer light-requiring species; and Quercus petraea Matt. Liebl. and Fagus sylvatica L. Plants were grown in pots in 36%, 16% and 4% of full sunlight. Hydraulic conductance was measured with a high-pressure flow-meter in entire, in situ root systems and in excised shoots. Leaf-specific whole-plant conductance (LSC) increased with irradiance, due, in part, to an effect of irradiance on plant size. In addition, there was a size-independent effect of irradiance on LSC due, in part, to an increase in root hydraulic conductance paralleled by an increase in root biomass scaled to leaf area. Changes in shoot conductivity also contributed to the size-independent plasticity of LSC. Vulnerability to cavitation measured in current-year twigs was much larger in shade-grown plants. Betula pendula had the highest whole-plant, root and shoot conductances and also the greatest vulnerability to cavitation. The other species were similar in LSC, but showed some variation in root conductance scaled to biomass, with Q. robur, Q. petraea and F. sylvatica having the lowest root conductance and susceptibility to cavitation. All species showed a similar irradiance-related plasticity in LSC.

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